As a manager, you’re focused on achieving and facilitating the best results for your team. To do this you need to create a workplace culture where team members are motivated to give their best while also supporting their colleagues’ efforts. Getting the most out of your teams depends on keeping team members engaged, and this can only happen when they feel free to make important job-related decisions. It’s all about choice, but how much autonomy should your teams have?
Too much choice? Having complete autonomy can make it difficult for people at work to choose what to work on and how. To prevent your people from being paralyzed by choice, give them a certain amount of time to work on things that interest them, 10% – 20% is about right. Keep in mind that each individual who works for your organization will thrive with a bit more or a bit less ‘free time.’
What size are your leaders? Engagement is the result of collaboration combined with a sense of ownership, while efficiency is the volume produced in a certain amount of time. Getting the most out of your autonomous team means striking a delicate balance. On the one hand, team leaders shouldn’t micromanage their team members, since this will discourage innovation and risk taking. On the other hand, a totally hands-off leader can produce teams that have too much freedom, without proper guidance and direction. In the case of leadership, ‘medium’ is best. A high level of team autonomy together with a medium level of leadership authority is the best way to ensure that team members are engaged and teams are operating at maximum efficiency.
No structure? When putting together a team, some structure is required. The trick is to build a framework that encourages autonomy. To do so, your managers and team members should have an open conversation about how the team will serve specific interests of the organization and also facilitate the professional development of individual members. Once you strike this balance between individual and organizational goals, you will have created real value.
Time to talk tech? Tools on the market today can help your teams operate much more efficiently and reduce the time used for administrative tasks, boosting individual and overall productivity. Time-tracking software and instant communication platforms are two ways that your team members can stay focused on reaching their individual and team goals.
Team autonomy is a tricky topic to get right. On the one hand, C-level executives tend to resist handing over decision-making powers to teams of varying levels of experience. On the other hand, micromanagement stifles creativity and drives down productivity. Figuring out how much autonomy your teams should be given starts with understanding what their goals are, the reason they were formed in the first place. Then, it’s important for team leaders to communicate these individual and team objectives and connect them to decisions made on the most appropriate level of autonomy for a particular team.
By being open and transparent with team members they will gain a clearer understanding of their individual roles and team objectives.